When I’m asked what is my favourite cuisine the answer for many years has been: Lebanese.
My hummus love story began many years ago when I had just moved to London.
I became vegetarian because the family where I was an au pair, were vegetarian. I thought it was cool. I had just arrived from Croatia where for tea we eat pork fat spread over a giant piece of white bread and sprinkled it with paprika and salt!
Times since then in Croatia have changed and good old pork fat has been widely replaced with Choco pops.
Above the club where I worked after my au pair job was a kebab shop that belonged to the same owner, so our staff meals were taken there. To their shock and horror I was vegetarian but the chefs loved me and were making me colourful plates of everything meat free that was available.
I mean everything! Even though I had just come out of the war I wasn’t really looking like I was starved to death, but people from that kebab part of the world are real feeders. If you don’t eat to a stupid level they get offended!
Make hummus not war!
I remember on the first day the chef asking me; ‘so what would you like to eat?’ smiling at me. Looking baffled, at all very foreign food to me, spread behind the counter. ‘No idea!’ I said. ‘Have you ever tried hummus?’ he asked. To me it sounded like the stuff you use to impregnate the earth and not very appetising. He also said ‘if you have never tried hummus and this is the first time you taste it, be warned, you will get addicted and it will stay with you forever’. Um…o.k.
Boy, he was right! Love at the first taste! I have been a sucker for hummus since then until to my shock horror last summer when I discovered that I’m highly intolerable to chickpeas and sesame (Tahini!)! Noooooo….! But let’s not spoil the hummus story with my food intolerances.
The affair continued over the years in London with late night visits to Maroush in Beauchamp Place with my work colleagues from Paparazzi café in Fulham road after we finished the late night shift. That place was always open and chicken sandwiches with garlic sauce, falafels and fruit cocktail finished off with baklava was just what you needed before going to bed. But then I was in my twenties, so was my digestion, which was faster in those days!
And then came an offer of six months work in Dubai. I went and completely loved the whole Arabic food culture. While I was there I bagged myself a rather hot fiancé in the shape of a Palestinian/Jordanian God’s gift and imported him back to London upon my return. With him came ‘the ring’, Middle Eastern food culture; hummus, Babaganoush, Tabouleh, fatoush, lentil soups, baklava, mint tea drinking, occasional sisha smoking, and the habit of calling each other ‘habibi’. God’s gift’s mum used to send us ring shaped cookies all the way from Jordan which were filled with date paste and anise. Bless her heart, she’s not with us anymore but I will always remember her for her kindness and her wonderful cookies.
At the end he went crazy for my oven roasted vegetables! We parted after five years of ‘engagement’, which really meant that we were just boyfriend and girlfriend. But when your other half is from that part of the world, you gotta wear a ring, so that everyone knows, you’re ‘his’.
It was easier for me after we split up, I could find good hummus on every corner in London but he couldn’t find my oven roasted vegetables anywhere…Ah, story of my life said too many times.
So, I know good hummus when I see it that is for sure. I can also proudly say that Passion was probably the first place to serve hummus in Ibiza. When I arrived here in 2001 it was nowhere to be found. It was an instant success in Passion, along with falafel and fresh mint tea. And it still is.
I was delighted when Paloma Café opened a few years after serving delicious hummus. It is quite different from the Lebanese hummus I’m so used to as their hummus is prepared the Israeli way, more runny and easier on tahini and lemon, but devilishly good too.
We are now able to offer you a beautiful, colourful, healthy Lebanese meze. After this meze there is no need for a main course.
You just sit and forever savour small dishes of absolute delight, sipping on mint tea and finishing it all with rosewater, Lebanese milk pudding or baklava. Yummy!!!
I’m very enthusiastic about this cuisine as it is so natural and abundant in fresh ingredients, unprocessed food, fresh herbs, lovely spices and lots of vegetables!
I don’t know about any cuisine that pays so much attention to the combination of dishes on the table. A vegetable dish has to be present, colourful pickles, black and green olives, fresh warm flat breads, lots of herbs and wonderful spices. Dishes are decorated with chopped parsley, pomegranate seeds, zaatar, sumac, pickled cucumber, paprika, pine nuts, swirls of good olive oil…yet they are very simple and elegant in their presentation.
Lebanese meze is ridiculously tasty, light, healthy, natural and beautiful to share. Ideal for a light lunch, ideal for a light late night dinner before hitting the dance floor or just simply ideal to really indulge and lay down afterwards with a good probiotic handy!